Lots of drama and shenanigans ensue when Jack’s long-term hunt for the Chesapeake Ripper heats up again and takes a tricky interesting turn towards Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. (Yes. Yes, they did.) A resurfacing of theatrics regarding the Ripper’s last victim steers Jack to new terrible places. And naturally, Jack’s loss is Hannibal’s gain.
‘Entrée’ marks a shift in storyline in what’s roughly the season’s halfway point. A good deal of the episode juxtaposes scenes at the psychiatric hospital where current patient, Dr. Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard) preens as the long-sought Chesapeake Ripper, with flashbacks to Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky), a young cadet that Jack was simultaneously mentoring and manipulating because she showed real magic for profiling. Will Graham magic. But Miriam ended up dead at the hands of this elusive killer (presumably his last victim). The body never found. And Jack’s never forgiven himself for it.
A few words about Eddie Izzard, Anna Chlumsky and Raul Esparza, respectively: All three are a stroke of casting genius. Izzard sparkles as a sociopath surgeon who manages to throw equal parts lively, cagey and terrifying into one role. Anna Chlumsky, tenacious and sympathetic, portrays fresh-faced agent-in-training, Miriam Lass. She never misses a beat reminding us of the hope and promise she held as a whip-smart protégé of Jack’s. And Raul Esparza nails the creepy elitist persnickety a-hole, Dr. Chilton, director of the state hospital, a character who has enjoyed a rich history in the Hannibal canon, both literature and celluloid.
Speaking of the Thomas Harris universe, this episode is, so far, the biggest homage. Those ultra-secure barred entrances needing clearance, one after another, to get further and deeper into the state hospital have never been more indelible than in Silence of the Lambs. Plus, with the half a dozen interviews conducted with Dr. Gideon trapped inside his padded glass box cell, it’s almost impossible not to think of Anthony Hopkins’ gymnastic charm peering out, bemused by the attention, at whomever is currently seeking his company.
As much as ‘Entrée’ is Jack’s disassembling, Will isn’t far behind. For the millionth time, he’s passive-aggressively scrutinized by a professional (well, Dr. Chilton) for being unusual, suspicious, if not outright crazy. And this time, the stakes are higher then the raised eyebrows of his fellow FBI team members, he is, after all, spending time at an institution that houses the very people with whom he’s unwittingly connected. Also, noticeably absent from his re-enactment of Dr. Gideon’s crime scene is the stylish transition that marks him moving from his reality to the reality of the killer (that long thin light pendulum). Is the space between his mind and the mind of a murderer diminishing? Plus, when he sees the body of the nurse Dr. Gideon has killed, he insinuates himself into the crime in scary detail. Much more detail and much scarier than ever before.
But back to Jack who seeks everyone around him to hold him up as his personal life collapses. He needles Hannibal for details about his wife’s cancer. The forensic team must first validate his sanity when he begins to receive calls from Miriam’s ghost then carefully and lovingly investigate his own bedroom where her hair and fingerprints inexplicably turn up. All while he painfully relives each time he and Miriam interacted over what’s still his most dispiriting unsolved case.
Then there’s Hannibal who mostly moves seamlessly between faux empathy and delight over Jack’s anguish, past and present, all of which he is causing with cruel calculation. He even breezily entertains Dr. Chilton and Alana for one of his infamous meals, but not without a huge course of cloying mental administration. Yet things are starting to get messy here, too. Interestingly shown through the unique mind of Miriam Lass, he is not beyond reach and somewhere inside of him, he knows it. She found him with a swiftness imbued with crystal clarity that must have scared the sh*t out of him. Two years ago, someone knew that Hannibal was the Chesapeake Ripper. In the final flashback (this time Hannibal’s) to Miriam’s near-final moments in his office where he attacked then captured her and eventually killed her is the explicit tale of a usually methodic easy murderer who killed this time, not out of sport or boredom or compulsion but out of fear of being caught. Hannibal is beginning to unravel in his own way. As ‘Entrée’ concludes, Hannibal, Jack and Will have zeroed in on the approach to the innermost cave.
Moment somber de la verite.
Odds and Ends
*The interviews Alana and Will conduct, separately, with Dr. Gideon are shot with more style than usual and that’s saying a whole lot. Moving alternately from Alana and Will’s questions to Dr. Gideon’s answers, not creating a linear Q&A between any of them gives the desired effect that shows Dr. Gideon, while dangerous, is really no match for the combined intellect of Alana and Will. We see two experts rule out the delusions and lies of this psychopath very efficiently.
*Freddie Lounds is back and I liked her more than I have in previous episodes. She handles herself very well when the FBI comes knocking on her door for a favor. Surprisingly, the plan they all hatch up is a pretty great success.
*Something that made Miriam Lass so intriguing was how sharp she was. Had she lived, dare I say, she might have exceeded Will’s talents because she lacked a certain level of emotional damage that beleaguers Will so.
*At the end of the third act, there’s a beautiful eerie architecturally rich backdrop of an observatory where Miriam’s arm is found, its hand holding the phone that had been calling Jack ‘from the grave.’ Only Hannibal could be responsible for choosing a locale cruelly ironic, symbolic and stunning, a place where we go to see what’s as far away as possible but not what’s close at hand.
Will (walking into the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane): “I always feel a little nervous going into these places.”
Jack: “Why is that?”
Will: “I’m afraid they won’t let me out.”
Dr. Chilton: “I’ve read your notes of course, they were more or less helpful as I conducted my own interviews with Dr. Gideon over the years.”
Alana: “Well I’m glad I was helpful.”
Will: “More or less.”
Freddie: “Not to snap bubble gum and crack wise but what’s my angle? Is he the Chesapeake Ripper? Or do you just want me to tell everybody he is?”
Jack (his phone rings): “Excuse me…”
Dr. Gideon: “The polite thing to do is tell them to call back.”
Will (referring to Miriam): “They retraced her steps?”
Beverly: “The ones they could find. She made a jump somewhere they couldn’t explain… (Her voice trails off) You make those jumps.”
On a note written in blood to Jack next to Miriam's arm: “What do you see?” (The same thing he asked Miriam at the one crime scene she participated in.)